Sacramento 911 Dispatch Hopes to Cut Down on Cell Phone Transfer Delays

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Many don’t realize it, but if a 911 call was dialed from a cell phone in most of Sacramento, it would be transferred into the city’s communications center from the California Highway Patrol.

Years ago, when that practice was put into place, most folks who were making 911 cell calls were making them on road trips.

That’s why the CHP got those calls first.

Now, technology and staffing are trying to catch up to the speed of life.

With cell phones in more hands and more a part of everyday life, the transfer system creates an average delay of about 70 seconds.

“Kids were setting a field on fire and I was calling 911, and I got CHP and they had to route me and put me on hold and it just took forever,” Sacramento resident Kimberley Owens said.

“Receiving information, there is some delay,” said Captain Mike McCarthy, director of the Sacramento police department’s 911 center.

Acknowledging that more than a minute could be cut out of a cell caller’s time on the line, the police department piloted a direct-call program from three city cell towers last fall and has plans to start a 4-year expansion project this fall in high-volume areas.

“Mack Road and Center Parkway, 24th and Florin, parts of Oak Park and old north Sacramento,” McCarthy said.

The CHP transfer system does help McCarthy’s busy department by weeding out 72,000 calls  – ones like pocket dials – that never get sent to his comm center.

Twelve more dispatchers would be needed to handle all those calls directly.

To allow for the first expansion of the direct-dial program,  $317,000  Measure U dollars will be funding four more dispatchers.

During Saturday’s shooting at Peregrine Park, 11 people dialed 911. Three of those calls came from land lines, seven from cells that were transferred from CHP and one that dialed Sacramento’s seven digit emergency number directly.

That number is (916) 732-0100.

Cell users are being encouraged to save it in their phones.

“Our department vision is to make Sacramento the safest big city in California,” said McCarthy.

Here’s one  thing to remember about dialing that seven-digit emergency number – it’s not going to send a GPS location to a dispatcher.

If you’re able to breath and can talk, McCarthy says dial those seven numbers.

But, if you need to keep quiet, for example if you’re hiding from a burglar in a closet, he says dial the numbers 911.

CHP will be able to determine your location through GPS and transfer that information on to Sacramento police.

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